All of us will be familiar with what a PPS number is. It is a bit like a barcode that you don’t have stamped on your forehead. Any person born in the state will have one, as will anyone who comes here because it is a requirement in having any dealings with the state.

You need a PPS number in order to work legitimately or apply for social welfare for example. It is therefore a useful measure of the numbers of people who are engaged with the state for whatever reason and thus a fairly accurate measure of the numbers of people who come here from overseas. That doesn’t apply of course if people are here illegally either through their own subterfuge or having been brought here against their will, although neither category is necessarily a bar to getting a PPSN.

By subtracting the number of persons claiming Irish citizenship granted a PPS number in any given year, from the overall allocation, it is possible to ascertain the number of people of other nationalities who have been given a PPS number, and it makes interesting reading, as contained in the detailed breakdown provided by the Central Statistics Office.

For example in this year to the end of June, there were 67,550 PPS numbers issued, of which 36,644 were given to people of nationalities other than Irish. That seems to be rather remarkable given that this includes the months during which Covid restrictions were at their most severe. And even more so when it is considered that 4,292 went to Brazilians, from one of the countries most severely impacted by Covid during those months

The overall numbers of non-Irish persons being given PPS numbers has expanded steadily over the past twenty years. In 2001, non nationals received 37.3% of PPS numbers. This had increased to 125,764 or 64% in 2019. In the last decade, including the first half of 2020, non Irish people have been granted 926,704  PPS numbers which accounts for 56.4% of all issues.

That is quite an extraordinary figure even taking into account that not all of those who came here at some stage to work have remained here, but obviously a considerable number have. And of course not all of those who come here do work or have any intention of working. In 2018, 44,317 non nationals with PPS numbers had no employment record, and 16,006 of those were from non European countries.

Indeed, a comparison between the active labour force and the number of recent PPS numbers issued to non nationals would suggest that only a minority are in fact working. There were 125,764 PPS numbers issued to non nationals in 2019, but the active labour force only increased by 45,000 between the second quarters of 2018 and 2019.

Employment numbers fell drastically under the impact of the virus to the end of June, by 77,500, yet more than 36,000 people claiming other than Irish citizenships were issued with a new PPS number. Most of them were clearly not joining the workforce given that the numbers of non Irish workers fell by over 15,000. So who are they, and why are they here?

According to the latest labour force survey for the second quarter of 2020, the overall growth in the numbers working increased by 17% overall since 2011, but the numbers of non Irish workers grew by 29.3%. That would tally with the overall increase in immigration, given that most immigrants are of working age. According to the CSO, net migration to the state was 33,700 between April 2018 and April 2019.
Of those who came to live here, just over 30% were Irish nationals returning from overseas, while 53% of those who left the state were Irish nationals. More than 30,000 immigrants from outside the EU came to Ireland between 2018 and 2019 .

The actual number of non nationals living in Ireland vary even within state analyses. That might be partly accounted for by people claiming citizenship of whom there have been more than 120,000 between 2011 and 2019. A detailed analysis of the 2016 Census shows that 16.7% of those enumerated were of non Irish nationality.

Regardless of the intentions of those who have come here, the implications for Irish society are profound and will continue to be over the succeeding decades if current patterns, and growth in immigration, continues. That demographic change is even more pronounced when a steadily declining birth rate is taken into account.

The birth rate was 12.1  in 2019 which was down from 16.2 in 2011, and has fallen from over 22 per 1000 in 1970.

There is, of course, no debate on any of these issues in this country, and to even hint at questioning where we are going is to invite upon the questioner the opprobrium of virtually the entire range of Irish political and establishment opinion. For them, the whole thing is about celebrating the success stories of people who have come here from other countries, which can be quite valid. More sinisterly, among the left, any attempt to question is met with accusations of racism.

There should equally be some discussion about the fact that at the end of 2019, over 23% of the prison population was non Irish. The increasing numbers of people who come here not to work, but to claim social welfare and other benefits such as public housing or publicly funded housing, should also be under scrutiny, as should the fact that according to the most recent reports  a significant majority of asylum applications are bogus and could be quickly processed simply on the basis of their country of origin.

It is a debate that needs to be placed at the centre of Irish political discourse in a rational and coherent fashion. Otherwise we are sleepwalking into a future in which this country is going to change beyond recognition without the agreement of its citizens. That surely trumps any greed for low wage labour on the part of some employers, and the belief among parties of the left that mass immigration will boost their electoral prospects.